Saturday, July 6, 2013

Review: Lexicon by Max Barry

Lexicon Max Bary
Title: Lexicon
Author: Max Barry
Publication Date: June 18, 2013

At an exclusive school somewhere outside of Arlington, Virginia, students aren’t taught history, geography, or mathematics—at least not in the usual ways. Instead, they are taught to persuade. Here the art of coercion has been raised to a science. Students harness the hidden power of language to manipulate the mind and learn to break down individuals by psychographic markers in order to take control of their thoughts. The very best will graduate as "poets”: adept wielders of language who belong to a nameless organization that is as influential as it is secretive.

Whip-smart orphan Emily Ruff is making a living running a three-card Monte game on the streets of San Francisco when she attracts the attention of the organization’s recruiters. She is flown across the country for the school’s strange and rigorous entrance exams, where, once admitted, she will be taught the fundamentals of persuasion by Brontë, Eliot, and Lowell—who have adopted the names of famous poets to conceal their true identities. For in the organization, nothing is more dangerous than revealing who you are: Poets must never expose their feelings lest they be manipulated. Emily becomes the school’s most talented prodigy until she makes a catastrophic mistake: She falls in love.

Meanwhile, a seemingly innocent man named Wil Jamieson is brutally ambushed by two strange men in an airport bathroom. Although he has no recollection of anything they claim he’s done, it turns out Wil is the key to a secret war between rival factions of poets and is quickly caught in their increasingly deadly crossfire. Pursued relentlessly by people with powers he can barely comprehend and protected by the very man who first attacked him, Wil discovers that everything he thought he knew about his past was fiction. In order to survive, must journey to the toxically decimated tow nof Broken Hill, Australia, to discover who he is and why an entire town was blown off the map.

As the two narratives converge, the shocking work of the poets is fully revealed, the body count rises, and the world crashes toward a Tower of Babel event which would leave all language meaningless. Max Barry’s most spellbinding and ambitious novel yet, Lexicon is a brilliant thriller that explores language, power, identity, and our capacity to love—whatever the cost.

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My Thoughts

I am really not sure what to make of this book. It was interesting enough to keep me reading the whole way, but there was just something about it that rubbed me the wrong way.

I've been trying to figure out what exactly it is that is preventing me from giving this book a higher rating. So I've come to the conclusion that it was a combination of the writing style, the subject matter and a few plot holes.

It took me quite some time to get used to the writing style and really get into the book. It didn't help that it kept going back and forth in time and it didn't freaking tell you. You just had to figure it out as you read along. It had the paragraph breaks and such but these breaks didn't always mean it changed time and story-line focus, so you really couldn't count on it for anything. The dialogue as well didn't come across as believable to me. It felt too stilted and forced at times. It just took entirely too long to get used to it and figure out the sequence of events and how many years it kept jumping ahead while still being in the past and then when it jumped back to the present, till it caught up. It was just really hard to keep up.

Then we have the subject matter it self. The Lexicon. The idea that you can persuade someone, control their minds, by uttering specific words that will let you bypass the defense mechanisms of your brain.

This isn't really a spoiler, it just explains the whole coercion thing - (view spoiler)

It was intriguing and the way it was presented at first made it incredibly believable, but then it got to the point where I started seeing it as more ridiculous than interesting, and from then on I just couldn't take it seriously again.

Lastly, we have the plot itself. I didn't know what was going on half the time since it kept going back and forth and nothing was revealed till the end, and I'd like to say I had a light bulb moment and suddenly everything made sense, but I'd be lying. I understand what was going on, but I'm still left with way too many questions, and I still don't get that ending! So if anyone who has read it mind explaining what the hell happened at the end, I'd appreciate it.

So, while this book was incredibly interesting and it kept me on my toes the whole time, there were too many different things that didn't agree with me to allow me to give this book a higher rating. I still think it's worth a read solely for the purpose that I'm not alone in my confusion :P

Would I Recommend it?


  1. I read his book "Jennifer Government" (a million years ago, and I think he was spelling Max with 2 x's) and it was my favorite book for a long time. I don't know if you've read it, but it's kind of a nod to corporations/consumerism run amuck; the government is a corporation, schools are owned by corporations and you have to take the last name of whatever you work for (I would be Brittany BestBuy, oh jeez). Showing that these corporate entities are taking over your identity! I liked that one a ton. Lexicon sounds pretty interesting to me. Even though you were kinda 'eh, about it: thanks for reminding me about the author!

    I'm now following on Bloglovin' :)
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  2. Sounds interesting. The thing with this book was that it wasn't bad it was just something so strange it's hard to process. I still liked the overall idea and it definitely caught my attention, but at the same time it left me disappointed somehow.

    Thanks for the follow! Will check out your blog :)

  3. It is hard when plot holes make the story fall apart and you lose that sense of believing. Wonderful, thoughtful review.


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